The worst crisis in decades

It was a "shattering year". Like Osnabruck Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, many Catholics will have bad memories of 2010.

The abuse scandal and the Mixa case caused a collapse in trust and rising numbers of resignations. The Catholic Church plunged into its worst crisis in decades.

Since the rector of Berlin's Canisius College, Father Klaus Mertes, set the scandal in motion in January, more and more people have come forward who had been abused or mistreated – most of the offenses took place decades ago. "At least
380 victims, at least 280 perpetrators" listed the "Suddeutsche Zeitung" for Bavaria alone. Affected were flagship church schools, the Regensburg Cathedral Boys' Choir and ordinary parishes.

Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg was also affected, facing allegations of beatings and financial irregularities. After agonizing weeks, Mixa finally came to terms with the loss of his office in mid-June. At the same time, it became clear in the course of the year that the scandal extends far beyond the Catholic sphere – as far as the reformed Odenwald school, into sports clubs and families.

The church drew lessons
The federal government responded by appointing an abuse commissioner and setting up a round table to discuss statutes of limitations, reporting obligations and compensation. The Church also drew lessons: "Protecting the institution and covering up everything incriminating is an erroneous path," underlined the president of the Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch.

In several steps since then, the church has been trying to come to terms with what happened: The bishops appointed Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann as their abuse commissioner and set up a hotline for victims. Dioceses and church schools submitted reports and promised transparency. In August, the bishops adopted stricter guidelines for dealing with perpetrators and involving the judiciary. In September, the Bishops' Conference then adopted a prevention concept for all church institutions.

"Boring doubts"
The search is on for a way out of a crisis that goes much deeper than that. Evidence for this is provided by the "Trendmonitor Religiose Kommunikation 2010" of the church media service GmbH (MDG): Only 17 percent still see themselves as closely connected to their church. Only 13 percent still think compulsory celibacy makes sense, just as few think the church's stance on sexuality and the role of women makes sense.

Zollitsch therefore also speaks of "boring doubts" about the teachings of the church. The Archbishop of Freiburg therefore proposed a "reflection process" of the church in Fulda. How this process is to be shaped is so far only visible in rudimentary form: in November, representatives of the bishops and the ZdK agreed on two joint working projects on the "interaction of priests and laity in the church" and on the "presence of the church in society and the state".

Debate about state performance
That the scandal has weakened the church's position is currently evident elsewhere: In the summer, FDP politicians sparked a discussion about historically conditioned state payments to the churches. A Coordinating Council of Secular Organizations (KORSO) and a "Violet Book of Church Finances" hit the same notch. In it, atheist Carsten Frerk accuses Catholics and Protestants of having obtained massive privileges from the state and living to a high degree on state funds. That a working group of "Social and Democratic Secularists" is also forming in the SPD shows that the wind is blowing in the churches' faces.

Possibility of Catholics and Protestants moving closer together. At least ecumenism is "weatherproof," emphasized ZdK President Alois Gluck at the Second Ecumenical Church Congress, which was held in May 130.attracted 000 permanent participants to Munich. Positive headlines for the Catholic Church came from the elevation of Munich Archbishop Reinhard Marx and church historian Walter Brandmuller to cardinals, as well as the pope's interview book. That Benedict XVI. expressed understanding for HIV-infected people relying on condoms to protect against the spread of the disease, in addition to abstinence and fidelity, immediately led to rising poll numbers for the pope.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *